Free Flowing Lies of Freedom House and its Suppression of Facts

| Harish Kulkarni
  • The “Freedom in the World“ report takes a hit for its half truths, putting findings out of context, and suppressing facts by being subjective.
  • The report comes to false and misleading conclusions over CAA and NRC ad hides the truth about Islam being the state religion of the neighbouring countries
  • Instead of looking at the lockdown from the larger needs of a nation and overall safety of the society, the rating agency’s priority is somebody’s right to protest during a pandemic
  • There are many flaws in the Freedom report (in relation to India) that raises a big question on the objectivity of the report.

Freedom House is the oldest American organization devoted to the support and defense of democracy around the world. It was formally established in New York in 1941 to promote American involvement in World War II and the fight against fascism and claims to be an independent international organization. It publishes “Freedom in the World” which is an annual global report on political rights and civil liberties, composed of numerical ratings and descriptive texts for each country and a select group of territories.

And in line with their stated objective, Freedom House recently published its “Freedom in the world” report that obviously included a report specific to India. The report can be found here.

At the outset I agree with the idea of such reports. In today’s global scenario where all the countries are connected with each other directly and indirectly, and are also interdependent in one way or the other, such reports help various countries make informed decisions while making any type of business or having any type of relation with another country. So reiterating, I have no issues with the idea of this report.

I also don’t have any issues if people who are part of preparing this report belong to any particular ideology or support it. Following any ideology within the framework and limits of law is anybody’s right. Ideology of a person or group of people should not be an obstacle to listen and learn from someone else.

One is free to conclude with their own opinion. But you can’t be dishonest to give half, incorrect, false, or out of context information to force your reader to read the way you want to. Ethical opinion organizations must be objective, transparent & honest with the facts, give your opinion, and let your readers form their own opinion with the honestly given facts. My only area of concern is/are Objective, Fair and Honest Representation of Facts. And precisely here the “Freedom in the World” report takes a hit for its half truths, putting findings out of context, and suppressing facts by being subjective, at least in its India report. My observations made in this piece are completely within the scope of its India Report.

But before we go into detail about the report, authenticity of its findings, and credibility of its assessment method etc., I will be honest to disclose myself as a Narendra Modi supporter and will continue to be so. While I believe the terms Right Wing & Left Wing are too western to actually recognize the idea and mindset of common Indian people, going by the trend, I hesitatingly claim myself a Right Winger.

Further, my intention is neither to counter nor to condemn this report. Intention is only to raise a concern on lack of objectivity and honesty. So I will be picking only some samples to illustrate the lack of objectivity & honesty of this report instead of commenting on everything that I don’t agree with.

Having said that, here we go to pick those sample considerations made in the report that pulled down the overall rating and objectively assess whether those considerations are fair? Or far from fair? Objective Or Subjective? Honest OR Dishonest?

Claim 1

The Report says “Muslim candidates notably won 27 of 545 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, up from 22 previously. However, this amounted to just 5 percent of the seats in the chamber, whereas Muslims make up some 14 percent of the population“.

While I agree with this argument for any historic reasons, India has constitutionally done the needful in such a case. And if it should be so where people have to elect their representatives based on some type/category of demography, then

a) It WON’T be Democracy of, by, & for THE PEOPLE. It will be called a JOKE!

b) Why only religious demography? Why not proportional representation based on economic status, language etc.? In such a case, where’s the end to division?

c) If you are considering compliance to a divisive parameter and evaluate a country, then what do you mean by claiming Freedom House is an organization devoted to the support and defense of democracy around the world?

d) By having such considerations in your evaluation of how free a country is, you are also implying that a community can be taken care of only by a person belonging to the same community. They are at risk if left to others. This is blatantly against the principles of democracy and values of coexistence in a society.

Claim 2

The Report says “In Dec 2019, Parliament adopted Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which grants special access to Indian citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants and refugees from neighboring Muslim-majority states“:

Here You Rate India “Partly Free” by yourself being “Partly True” to the facts & reality. Here is why & how…

a) It’s NOT “…from neighboring Muslim-majority states”. IT IS from neighboring states with Islam as STATE RELIGION! There’s a Difference. A CLEARLY VISIBLE DIFFERENCE which cannot be ignored unless you wanted to deliberately ignore this fact.

b) You are hiding the context of religious partition and the fact we adopted secularism as state policy, whereas neighbors adopted a state religion. Hence those who became religious minorities in constitutionally religious states and were subjected to atrocities for no fault or role of theirs in partition that caused them such misery had to be given a life to live with dignity and respect.

Claim 3

The report says “At the same time, the government moved forward with plans for the creation of a national register of citizens. Many observers believe the register’s purpose is to disenfranchise Muslim voters by effectively classifying them as illegal immigrants.”

This is a classic case of Rating without Rational and here is why!

a) Is there any DRAFT of NATIONAL NRC released or made available yet to base what you believe or someone opines on purpose of NRC? NO there’s no draft!

b) So if you RATE a country on how free it is based on what somebody believes with ZERO basis for their belief, It indicates the report lacks any minimum credibility to take it for serious consideration. Also such baseless reports will be morally corrupt.

Claim 4

The Report says “Importantly, Muslims disproportionately lack documentation attesting to their place of birth. Undocumented non-Muslims, meanwhile, would be eligible for citizenship through a fast-track process under the CAA.

This neither has any basis nor any attempt to understand facts. Here are the facts.

a) The legal/administrative process of obtaining, attesting, & maintaining any govt document is same for all citizens…NO discrimination whatsoever.

b) Nowhere in CAA or in the imaginary NRC (as there’s no national NRC available yet for any kind of review), it is stated that those who fail NRC will still get or retain citizenship through CAA if the person is a non-Muslim.

c) This whole argument of lack of documentation only among certain communities becomes even more absurd when we realize that this concern never raised while availing (yes, it’s their right) various government facilities, benefits etc., that required to show similar documents!

Claim 5

The Report says “Under constitutional amendments introduced by the BJP-led government in December 2019, Lok Sabha seats reserved for two appointed members representing Indians of European descent were eliminated as of January 2020, as were similarly reserved seats in some state legislatures.

This unfortunately sounds like STUPID criteria to rate any country…. for reasons below

a) We are inching towards 75 years of INDEPENDENCE. An Indian of any descent has been assimilated in our society as an Indian with equal rights.

b) Any criteria MUST itself be evaluated for relevance before applying it to RATE a country.

Claim 6

Going further the report says “Several key Supreme Court rulings in recent years have been favorable to the BJP, including the 2019 decision allowing the construction of a Hindu temple on the site of a historic mosque

This again is a blatantly malicious way of presenting or representing any assessment and report.

a) Wherever there is a case contested by two people or parties, judgments in all such cases in any court across the globe will be favoring one’s argument among the two deferring arguments…unless the concerned parties make out of court settlement.

b) While quoting any judgment as an example in any assessment of the judiciary, honest & credible assessment is commenting on the merits of the case and evidence considered for the judgment…NOT in whose favor the judgment went!

c) Everything of the said case did not happen in 2019 or in the last couple of years. The case had been in the court for over 6-7 decades. During this time it has seen many courts, judges, judicial panels, governments both at state & central, innumerable hearings, court offering both sides time for out of court settlement etc. After all these the court delivered a very detailed judgment.

In such a context, if any rating agency describes a court ruling as favorable to some party instead of talking specific details of judgment only shows how immature and clueless the rating agency is about its methodology.

Claim 7

Then the report makes the most ridiculous argument in its assessment. The report says “Critics alleged that the country’s COVID-19 lockdown, which was imposed in March and gradually eased beginning in May, was conceived by the government in part to forestall further CAA protests and to silence dissent

Such an argument is not only ridiculous, but also absurd and malicious.

a) Entire world was facing the Corona pandemic. Every country was taking some kind of steps to contain the pandemic and prepare for its eventual spread.

b) Restricting movements of people and mass gatherings is the most common sense step to contain pandemic and by doing so also buy time to scale up Corona specific health infrastructure to manage the eventual spread.

Instead of looking at the lockdown from the larger needs of a nation and overall safety of the society, the rating agency’s priority is somebody’s right to protest during a pandemic which is a sure shot recipe for spreading pandemic wide enough to pay a huge humanitarian price. Then the question will be on the intention and integrity of Freedom House and its commitment towards humanity and human rights.

Likewise there are many such flaws in the Freedom report (specific to India in this piece) that raises a big question on the objectivity of the report. But as I stated earlier, the intention is neither to counter nor condemn the report. Intention is only to highlight the need to increase objectivity & honesty to increase the credibility of the report. Hope this piece will serve the purpose.

(Author is an IT professional and a Social Media Enthusiast who writes on current affairs. Views expressed are authors own and does not necessarily reflect that of SamvadaWorld)

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